Our Federalist Constitution: The Founders' Expectations and Contemporary American Government

Our Federalist Constitution: The Founders' Expectations and Contemporary American Government

Our Federalist Constitution: The Founders' Expectations and Contemporary American Government

Our Federalist Constitution: The Founders' Expectations and Contemporary American Government

Excerpt

The founding era has much to tell us about American politics. This moment of creation offers us a glimpse at the reasons behind our governmental system, and offers us insights and predictions into how that government might work. The debate over ratification was not a debate over principles as much as it was a debate over practical politics, with strong disagreements on how a government under the proposed Constitution would work, and how such a constitution should be established in the first place. The founders on both sides of the debate were conscious of their place in history, and of the fact that they were embarking on unexplored territory, and their debates speak volumes about American government even to the present day.

Using specific predictions made by Federalists and AntiFederalists during the debate over ratification, this work engages in an examination of contemporary American politics. Many of the issues which were closely contested in this debate continue to bedevil contemporary political actors; the Constitution, in essence, is still in debate. By looking at the accuracy of Federalist and Anti-Federalist predictions in the development of American institutions, we can see whether we have departed from the intentions of the founders. What the Federalists predicted, the Anti-Federalists generally would have liked to see; the latter simply did not expect that those predictions would be borne out in the future. What the Anti-Federalists warned against was often undesirable to the Federalists as well, but the latter had a more sanguine view of how American political history would unfold. The Federalists explained to us how the various branches of government should work together to effectively govern the nation while preventing tyranny; the Anti-Federalists told us how things would fall apart and why. Through a careful examination of the two houses of Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court, I evaluate the state of each of these institutions in light of the principles of the founders, using predictions made by each side of the ratification debate. I also . . .

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